This review contains spoilers.
Wes Craven’s death is not something I can dwell upon here, yet it’s also not something I can ignore in writing about the finale of the first season of a show that wouldn’t be around without him. Indeed, in at least an indirect way, a lot of us wouldn’t be here–”here” being all about tropey, sometimes campy, classic horror–without Mr. Craven. Though its executive producer, he didn’t really have his hands in Scream the TV series much, as I understand it, but his legacy gave us everything that was good about it. So, I’ll just say thanks, Mr. Craven. You’ve scared me my whole life, or at least since I was a little kid watching A Nightmare On Elm Street without permission, and I’ve loved it the whole time.
Moving along, I’ve likewise really enjoyed Scream’s first season, and its finale this week reminds us just how good this show has managed to be as a whole thus far. Structurally, it serves as a fitting bookend to the pilot–we’re brought full circle back to the dock and the tragedy that began there twenty years ago. Another body falls into the water, life lost to unfair circumstances beyond their control. And a pretty girl rides away in an ambulance, as Noah points out, worse for the wear but having survived.
Also, blood. Like, a lot of blood and a healthy portion of guts, literally. Emma and her mother just can’t seem to stop causing gory deaths in a well-meaning way. Poor Sheriff Hudson’s demise–still relatively merciful compared to Will’s–is a worthy final act in the killer’s grisly repertoire. Though I complained briefly in the middle of the season that there wasn’t enough carnage, that lull didn’t last too long. The show has been creative and sparing, yet unflinching, in giving us some quality watch-through-your-fingers deaths, and has been the better for it.
Bottom line, though: do we end up caring about all the killing for anything more than the stabby goodness? Noah’s closing montage voiceover from the premiere episode lays out the expectations for an ill-advised slasher-movie-turned-series, among which is the assumption that the audience will care enough about the characters that it will matter when they start dying. At first, the show is so purposefully meta that the characters are in danger of automatic, irrevocable stereotyping: Good Girl, Snooty Rich Girl, Clueless Jock, Extra Clueless Pervy Jock, Broody Enigmatic New Guy, Super Nerd, Angry Bi Girl, etc.
I’m not going to say that Scream elevates any of these roles into nuanced character studies–it’s an MTV teen show, after all–but I contend that we do reach a level of investment in these kids that doesn’t require profound analysis. Emma narrowly avoids defaulting to a bland little-too-perfectness at times, true, but she is written in such a way that her character is not an innocent. Audrey–subsequent revelations notwithstanding–is frustrated and frustrating, but so relatable to anyone who is or once was somehow “different” as a teenager. And Noah is a likeable vindication for those of us–I mean, a certain type of kid who knows way too much and is way too enthusiastic about it. He’s the geek chorus (see what I did there?), and we can’t help but love him for it.
No matter what it is you may like about any given character, though, or what they may represent to you, none of them is perfect. They begin as stock characters, sure, and at times rely on that as shorthand. Most, though, begin and end with some sort of secret or past, some of which remain in place even after the finale. It’s easy to expect them all to pile into the Mystery Machine, everyone bringing their own unique approach to solve the case as a team. But they don’t. They work in pairs or alone or in other configurations, suspecting each other or feeling guilty about suspecting each other, fighting or not speaking sometimes. There is still some rawness even after the killer is found.
Not every mask is pulled off, for the villains or for those looking for the villains. For Kieran and Emma, the shadows that passed over their relationship still hover on the periphery. Seth Branson was still Seth Palmer at one time, and though cleared of any wrongdoing on this case, we still don’t know what happened in his previous life. Jake still had the malware. And we still suspect that Maggie, who was there for the inception (and conception, literally) of the whole thing, still hasn’t told her entire story. And Audrey…well, we have to completely rethink Audrey after that last scene.
I don’t think it was a shock that Piper was the main killer, but it was still a fun, classic twist. Her crazy-faced revelation of lifelong secret rage just provided the extreme conclusion to her own complicated story. And so, she ends up just like her father, a missing body in Lakewood’s murky waters.
Scream is silly and gruesome and self-referencing ad nauseum, and the characters can be annoying, but what horror movie doesn’t have you yelling at the screen? You should watch season 1 if you haven’t, and you should return for season 2. I’m hoping that Audrey will be the focus, at least as much as Emma is. She was involved with Piper, we now know, but we don’t know what kind of involvement it is. Many questions remain about her, but not just her. Brandon James has been the bogeyman of the series, but Maggie, remember, tells Emma she’s not convinced he was a monster–and thus not to give up on Audrey.
Let’s not give up on these kids. See you next season? I’ll be sharpening my knife stick in the meantime.
Read Holly’s review of the previous episode, The Dance, here.
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